University of California

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Fresh-cut Product Quality and Temperature Management

Jeffrey K. Brecht (University of Florida)

Temperature history of whole products used to prepare fresh-cut products is important since tissue aging, respiration rate, and compositional changes are all temperature-responsive processes. Thus, the quality and potential shelf life of fresh-cut products can be compromised when the products are prepared from whole products that are not fresh or have not been handled under ideal conditions. Temperature management during preparation and handling of fresh-cut products is critical for maintaining quality. Even small temperature variations can result in important quality differences. A comparison of several fresh-cut vegetables and fruits held at 1.1, 2.8 or 4.4 degrees C for up to 16 days or until the product was judged to be unacceptable resulted in significant differences in appearance and composition. Quality of all fresh-cut products is best when temperature is maintained near 0 degrees C irrespective of whether the corresponding whole product is chilling sensitive. Maintaining temperature uniformity during transportation is an issue that may have negative consequences for fresh-cut product quality. Temperature mapping during shipping has shown that non-uniformity may develop due to equipment limitations in truck trailers that can allow temperature zones to develop, or magnify temperature differences that existed prior to trailer loading. Temperatures of fresh-cut products in refrigerated retail display cases have been found to vary greatly – not only among different displays, but also within the same display due to poor equipment design and product stacking procedures. Interaction between fresh-cut product temperature variability and modified atmosphere packaging design and performance also impacts quality.

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